In PRO-suit of Publication

Today, I’d like to introduce Joanne Lockyer in the final installment of “In PRO-suit of publication, Regency GH Edition.” Joanne is the only 2012 Regency GH finalist I’ve met in person, and I can assure you she is as lovely as she is talented! Welcome, Joanne. Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself?

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Wendy! I live in Brisbane, Australia. These days, I have the fortune to work at a fabulous, flexible science writing related job several days a week. I devote the other days to working on my manuscripts.

Sounds heavenly! Jumping right in, will you share the twitter-pitch of your GH finaling manuscript?

It’s the story of a lone adventurer who has stolen his family’s fortune yet never spent a cent, and the beautiful shipwreck survivor he plucks from the English Channel.

Love it. You’ve packed many story questions into an intriguing pitch. Right away, I want to know more about this mysterious hero. What do you love about this story?

I write hero-driven stories. The guys in my books carry some baggage! The hero of my GH manuscript, Jonathon Lecky, is by no means a typical regency hero. A lone wolf, a commoner, he reflects the type of men who pit themselves against mountains and sail solo around the globe. And while he works to his own moral code, he is also a lawbreaker. At one point in the novel, my heroine, Rachel Cavanagh, contrasts him to her infamous privateer grandfather and observes, “Her grandfather had been a man’s man as much as a ladies man. Jonathon Lecky was all man’s man.”

OOOh…you have a future reader in me! Where were you when you received the GH call?

Actually, I didn’t find out I finaled by phone! However, I did stay up all night in the hope the phone would ring! (Yeah… I was pretty hopeful!). My critique partner, Elizabeth Essex, received her RITA call at 9 a.m. Texas time (midnight Australian time). I was so delighted! Meanwhile, my phone remained stubbornly silent. At 5 a.m. Australian time (2 p.m. Texas time, when the full official list was supposed to be up), I took myself to bed, far more gutted in reality than I had earlier convinced myself I would be, should no call eventuate.

Three hours later, I was woken by a phone call from my mother, who said I needed to check the RWA website. A crazy, excited email from Elizabeth Essex revealed my name had appeared on the list twenty minutes after I went to bed!

After believing I hadn’t finaled, I then spent the whole day in shock. Wasn’t complaining though! Ultimately, RWA did call, after politely waiting for Australian business hours! I think GH/RITA calls are one of those things no one minds being woken for in the middle of the night!

What a roller coaster! Can you share any ah-ha moments related to writing?

I can chart a few great leaps. The first was attending the Romance Writers of Australia conference in 2006, three months after I got serious about writing. I arrived at that conference with a full ‘ugly duckling draft’ of my first manuscript; along with a draft query letter the visiting US literary agent quickly tore to shreds. I had written the first manuscript largely from instinct, rather than an understanding of craft. Attending a writing conference early was invaluable. Budding writers should get themselves to a conference quick smart!

In subsequent years, I’ve benefited immensely from Michael Hauge’s workshops and Margie Lawson’s lecture packets.

Margie Lawson is such a talented teacher. And, I completely agree about conferences. When RWA came to NY, I went on a mission to convince as many local writing friends to sign up as I could. Yes, conferences can be expensive, but they offer connection with your peers, networking with industry professionals and perspective on current trends…and that’s before you factor in the fabulous workshops! Worth. Every. Penny.

Switching gears, what’s your favorite romance?

I can’t narrow it down! Absolutely anything by Laura Kinsale. I adored ‘The Bronze Horseman’ by Paullina Simons. And I think Maire Claremont, who will soon be published by Signet, will become a future favorite . . .

I haven’t read Paullina Simons, but I love Laura Kinsale. I’ve read Flowers from the Storm about ten times. Talk about a hero with baggage! 

For readers who might not know, Maire Claremont was last year’s Golden Heart Winner in the Historical category. I’ve read an excerpt and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Dark Lady.

This has been so much fun! Any parting words of wisdom?

Sure! I have been doing a lot of revisions lately and I am always looking for ways to ‘write smarter’. While I am very much a plotter, I have realized sometimes I don’t plot ‘deep’ enough – not on the first draft anyway! (I would love that to change!). Characterization can still feel a little flat on the page.

One solution? Returning to the main characters’ backstories, or developing the relationships between characters. “Show” (not tell) the nitty-gritty detail in backstory/character planning. Say, for example, the heroine does not get along with her elder brother. Instead of having the pair snipe at one another, brainstorm: What are three things the brother has done / continues to do to set his sister’s temper off like a Chinese firecracker? Wherever possible, consider both the event and consequence.

1. He is always reckless when he rides the estate’s most valuable horse. On the first occasion he nearly brings the animal back lame, the heroine snaps his riding crop in half. The second time, she tips a bucket of chaff over his head in front of his friends. For the latter, he’s never forgiven her.
2. He consistently recites their father’s various financial ‘words of wisdom’, yet their father left his children with a mountain of debt.
3. He is constantly buying new shoes.

It is amazing how many other ideas this approach can trigger! Our life experiences reveal our character and our substance. So too these details for our characters 🙂

What a wonderful suggestion. Hummm…sounds like a great future workshop, too! Thanks so much for being here Joanne.

And, in honor of the Regency Golden Heart Category, commenters today will be entered to win a e-book copy of 2009 Regency Golden Heart Winner and 2010 Regency Golden Heart Finalist Sara Ramsey‘s Heiress Without a Cause (In the e-book format of their choice).

It’s been a privilege to get to know April Bennet on the Firebirds Yahoo Group. She’s fun and funny and I can’t wait to meet her in person in Anaheim. I’m so glad she agreed to join me for In PRO-suit of Publication, Regency GH Edition. Welcome April!

Thanks for having me, Wendy! I have been so glad to get to know you on the Yahoo Group and have loved reading your recent interviews with our fellow GH finalists. I am very much looking forward to sharing a chocolate martini with you and the other gals in Anaheim.

Thank you April! To start, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I live in Los Angeles, California, with my husband and two daughters, ages 4 and 7. At my day job I work on water supply policy issues. I am a former lurker, er, member of the Beau Monde chapter of RWA and fully intend to send in those chapter dues again. (I swear!) I began reading Georgette Heyer, Marion Chesney, and Signet Regency Romances when I was 13, and 30 years later I still adore romance novels set in the Regency period.

Regency does seem to become a life-long obsession *a-hem* love among those of us who read, research and write it. Now, I’m especially excited to hear the twitter-pitch of your GH finaling manuscript. Will you share?

A poor war hero jilts an heiress in the name of honor. When he returns years later with something to offer, will she be able to forgive him?

Awww, a man committed to caring for the woman he loves. I love him already! So, tell me, what do you love about this story?

The dialogue! I love to write dialogue and so made the hero and heroine witty and self-deprecating. They spoke to each other for hours in my head, and I tried to capture the most fun and interesting bits. I also love my cast of supporting characters, that simply had to have their say. There were moments during the writing of this story when my H and H could not get a word in edgewise.

Sounds delightful! Definitely a recipe for GH success. Where were you when you received the GH call?

When I entered the GH, it never occurred to me that I could be a finalist. I was looking for feedback in the form of the score you get at the end that shows you where you fall in the spectrum of entries. So, on the day of the announcement, I was at work as usual and completely oblivious that I could potentially receive some good news. In fact, I was so oblivious in general that I filled in my home phone number as my contact number on my entry form instead of my cell phone number. My husband received the call at home from Diane Kelly and relayed the message to me. I was able to speak to her later, but that first burst of shock had subsided by then, and I was able to pretend that I was both calm and sane. Actually, Ms. Kelly probably thought I had been sedated.

*Grin* I love that you weren’t aware it was ‘call day’! I actually shut off my phone, scolding myself for what I thought was false hope. I’m glad I turned it back on!

Can you share any ah-ha moments related to writing?

I entered the Emily Contest in 2010 and received two great scores and one low one. It took me weeks to fortify my confidence enough to read the comments from the judge who gave me the low score. However, I very much appreciated them, and so sat down at my computer and did my best to address some of the issues she pointed out. As I was revising, I realized that much of the first section of my story was told, not shown. Making that leap in understanding was huge for me, and I did extensive revisions as a result.

Oh I agree–low-scoring judges get disparaged, but I’ve received some of the most insightful comments from judges who gave me low scores. I’m indebted to contest feedback. Any other ah-ha moments?

A second a-ha moment has come recently. I did not query much before I was selected as a finalist in the GH. Since the GH announcement in March, I have sent out several queries in an attempt to leverage the GH Finalist “magic.” As of last week, all of those queries have resulted in rejections. Some of them were nice, some were very constructive, but they were rejections all the same. There was a definite sting in the vicinity of my heart and a small stomp on my confidence after receiving each one, but during this process something has become clear – even if I never publish a word, I will continue to write. It is just so darn fun.

The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood gave some stats in 2011 that surprised me. Only 15 sold their GH-finaling manuscript. However, the same post noted that, taken together, the Rubies had sold, published or contracted 80 books.

One thing I know for sure–if rejections toughen your skin and increase your resolve, you are on the right track. I revisit a blog post on Terrible Minds about rejection when I need a little boost. (Warning: the language is, um, intense.)

Onto happier thoughts. What’s your favorite romance?

I love Loretta Chase and think Your Scandalous Ways is her best book ever. I mean seriously – a spy and a courtesan in Venice? Yes, please! That is a definite go-to book for me. Sherry Thomas is amazing too, and Not Quite a Husband makes me weepy every time. And of course, I adore Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is wonderful (duh), but lately, I have been going back to Persuasion again and again. There is just something so heart wrenching about Anne Eliot’s quiet loneliness and yearning that gets me every time.   Persuasion is such a wonderful story of lasting love. Any parting words of wisdom?

Put your cell phone number on your GH entry form!

LOL, April! Thanks for stopping by, It’s been wonderful having you.

Thanks, Wendy, for giving me this opportunity. I can’t wait to meet you and all of the other Firebirds in a few weeks!

Readers, leave a comment for April and you will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of April’s favorite book, Your Scandalous Ways.

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